The socialite grande dame passed away yesterday at Holy Hill, her Briarcliff Manor estate. Described variously as a “civic leader,” “philanthropist” and “trend setter,” Astor is often said to have defined what it meant to be in New York’s high society mid-century, and served as “the last bridge to the Gilded Age, when ‘society’ was a closed world of old-money families,” according to an obituary in the Times.
According to The Journal News, her reverend and friend, Charles P. Pridemore of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Ossining, was by her side this weekend, as was her son, when she passed.
<blockquote><div>I was with her a few minutes after she died. … she had her dogs – Boysie and Girlsie – I don’t know if they were in the room, but they were still there. She was surrounded by beautiful, fresh-cut flowers and the people who loved her most.</div></blockquote>
Astor was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 1998, for her charity efforts.
She’s quoted as saying: “Money is like manure, it should be spread around.” She married into the Astor family when she was in her 40s. Her husband, Vincent Astor, was the great-great-grandson of John Jacob Astor, who made his fortune in fur trading and New York real estate. When Astor died, she inherited a fortune of $67 million.
Her charity work for places like the New York Public Library, Carnegie Hall, the Museum of Natural History, Central Park, the Bronx Zoo and the Metropolitan Museum of Art is well known. However, she also gave to the Apollo Theater and to various other community projects. She was also quite active in the village of Briarcliff.
Astor was born Brooke Russell March 30, 1902. She was nine years younger than the oldest known person in the world, who, coincidentally, also passed away yesterday.
(AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, 1989)